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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cambodia: Khmer Rough prison survivor wins Rights award

(New York, February 6, 2007) � Cambodian writer and artist Vann Nath is among a diverse group of writers from 22 countries to receive the prestigious Hellman/Hammett award, which recognizes courage in the face of political persecution, Human Rights Watch said today.

He is the eighth Cambodian to win the award since 1995. Vann Nath, 62, is one of seven survivors of the Khmer Rouge secret prison known as Tuol Sleng or S-21, where 14,000 men, women and children were interrogated, tortured and executed during the 1975-79 Pol Pot regime. He is a torture survivor and experienced appalling conditions, including near starvation, during his time at the prison.

"Vann Nath is an important painter and writer whose memoirs and paintings of his experiences in the Tuol Sleng prison are a powerful and poignant testimony to the crimes of the Khmer Rouge," said Marcia Allina, who coordinates the Hellman/Hammett program.

Today, Vann Nath is an outspoken advocate for justice for victims of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. His 1998 memoir about his experiences at S-21 is the only written account by a survivor of the prison. He will likely serve as an important witness in the tribunal being organized by the United Nations and Cambodia to bring former Khmer Rouge leaders to justice.

Vann Nath is one of Cambodia's most prominent artists. It was this skill that kept him alive at S-21. His life was spared by his jailers so that he could be put to work painting and sculpting portraits of Pol Pot. He has played an important role in helping to revive the arts in Cambodia after decades of war and genocide.

Vann Nath's first effort to document in writing his experiences under the Khmer Rouge resulted in "A Cambodian Prison Portrait: One Year in the Khmer Rouge's S-21 Prison." The book was published in English in 1998 and is currently being translated into French and Swedish.

During 2001-2002, Vann Nath worked intensively with Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh in the preparation of a documentary film entitled "S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine." Vann Nath is extensively featured in the film, in which Panh brought together former prisoners and guards and filmed them, on site at the former prison or at the killing field known as Choeung Ek. With great dignity, survivor Vann Nath confronts and questions his former torturers.

Despite battling long-standing health problems, including chronic kidney disease, Vann Nath continues to paint and write about his experiences under the Pol Pot regime.

"Recognizing courageous writers and torture survivors such as Vann Nath, who continue to speak out about injustice, torture and impunity, highlights the need for justice for past atrocities," said Allina. "Like the other Hellman/Hammett grant-winners, Vann Nath is also living proof of the need for greater human rights protection today."

Human Rights Watch administers the Hellman/Hammett awards, given each year to writers around the world who have been victims of human rights violations or targets of political persecution.

More than half of this year's 45 awardees hail from three countries � nine are from China, eight are Vietnamese, and seven come from Iran. All three countries have harassed and persecuted journalists, poets, playwrights, essayists, bloggers and novelists who dare to express ideas that criticize official public policy or people in power.

Among this year's recipients is Chinese poet Huang Xiang, 65, who spent more than 12 years in Chinese work camps and prisons as a result of ideas expressed in his poetry. Also recognized this year is Vietnamese democracy activist Nguyen Vu Binh, 38, who is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for articles he wrote criticizing the government and calling for democracy. Read more!

China : Hongdou Garment to set up production base in Cambodia

February 5, 2007

Managing Director Wang Zhu Qian, Hongdou Group, revealed on January 30 that the board of directors had approved the plan of investing about 300 million yuan to build a factory in Cambodia after Chinese Spring Festival. All of its products will be exported to different market.

It is reported that this strategy is an attempt to avoid the textile restrictions imposed by the US and EU, because Cambodia dose not face such restrictions. In addition, China’s land, water, manual labor costs have continued to rise, while Cambodia and other countries have certain advantages in these areas.

Earlier, the company established its own factory in Wuxi Industrial Park. They also spent more than one year to make investigations in Cambodia and Vietnam. Cambodian local government warmly welcomed the Group to establish factory in their place. Group achieved annual sales of 14.3 billion yuan in 2006, of which 10 million came from exports.

Europe and the US markets accounted for 70 percent of the group’s total exports. It is revealed that the group exported over US $60 million of textile products in 2005. And the export amount surpassed $100 million in 2006. Read more!

Singapore embassy in Cambodia to host show on bilateral art

The Singapore Embassy is to present an art exhibition and talk to highlight bilateral art on Wednesday, said an embassy press release received on Tuesday.

The exhibition will feature new works by Cambodian artist Chhim Sothy entitled "Gold Leaf on Wood," while Joyce Fan, curator at the Singapore Art Museum, will present a talk on Singapore art entitled "Pioneering Art in Singapore," it said.

The exhibition and talk are the first in a series of events, which the Embassy plans to hold over the year aimed at showcasing the arts of Singapore and Cambodia as well as promote cultural linkages between the two countries, it said.

Chhim Sothy's exhibition will feature exciting new art works involving traditional Khmer mythological tales and figures in gold leaf painted on old wood, including door panels, tree bark and window frames.

Meanwhile, Joyce Fan will speak on the different art forms and expressions that emerged in Singapore from the British colonial days, the post-war struggle for independence to the period of economic development.

She will also introduce local artists whose works were in response to the changes in Singapore and the impact it had in shaping artistic expressions.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

USAID cuts anti-human trafficking funding in Cambodia

The USAID is reducing funding for anti-human trafficking NGOs in Cambodia over the next 20 months from 4.5 million U.S. dollars to 2 million U.S. dollars, the Cambodia Daily said on Tuesday.

The USAID will now focus less directly on combating human trafficking and more on government issues, anti-corruption, and strengthening the rule of law, the paper quoted U.S. Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle as saying.

The decision was made in Washington, and was related to "budget constraints", Daigle said, adding that the funding cut does not indicate the USAID is unhappy with the way its funds have been used.

"The root causes of (human trafficking) are poverty and poverty is linked directly to poor governance," he wrote in a recent e- mail.

"The USAID programs focusing on anti-corruption and more engagement with the judiciary will address these governance problems, and thus, to some extent, trafficking issues," he said.

The USAID has no plans to directly fund the Cambodian government to combat trafficking, he added.

The NGOs who had been set to receive the USAID funding between Jan. 2007 and Oct. 2008 include World Vision Cambodia, Catholic Relief Services, International Justice Mission, Hagar and World Hope.

Source: Xinhua Read more!

Holiday meals, being fears of brid flu


Cambodia has stepped up its precautions against bird flu, amid fears the huge demand for chicken over Chinese New Year could heighten the risk of new outbreaks, according to a health official.
Health officials have been ordered to strictly enforce a ban on poultry from the country's neighbours following recent outbreaks of bird flu in Vietnam and Thailand, said Kao Phal, director of animal health at the agriculture ministry.
"We are afraid that poultry will be smuggled from neighbouring countries that have been hit by bird flu," Kao Phal told AFP.
He said an order to strengthen monitoring and to prevent transportation of poultry was issued on Monday to health officials along the borders and across the country.
Ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese in Cambodia will celebrate the Lunar New Year starting this weekend, often using chickens as religious offerings.
"There could be shady business people importing poultry from neighbouring countries, which could cause the spread of bird flu into Cambodia and affect the health of people and birds," the order said.
Only local poultry with documents guaranteeing their safety will be allowed to be transported around the country.
Cambodia last reported an outbreak of the deadly avian flu last September, but officials have warned that smuggled poultry poses a threat to the country, where six Cambodians have died of the H5N1 strain of the virus since 2003.
Tens of thousands of birds -- mostly chickens and ducks -- have been slaughtered to prevent the spread of the virus.
Cambodia has been praised by the United Nations for its rapid action against bird flu, which has helped spare it from the human and poultry deaths suffered by its neighbours.
But health officials also warn that the virus could go undetected in the countless small family farms where most of Cambodia's poultry are raised.
A massive public information campaign featuring posters and television and radio spots was launched last year in a bid to educate the largely rural public about bird flu.
Bird flu has killed more than 150 people worldwide since late 2003 and fears remain that it may become a far more highly contagious disease that could trigger a deadly, global pandemic.
Read more!

Swiss President arrives in Cambodia on state visit

Swiss President and head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Micheline Calmy-Rey arrived here on Monday to pay a state visit to Cambodia.

Calmy-Rey is scheduled to visit Cambodia from Feb. 5 to 7, at the invitation of King Norodom Sihamoni, said a press release from the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

During the visit, Calmy-Rey will be received by King Sihamoni and meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen, the press release said.

She will also hold talks with Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, it said.

Besides, Calmy-Rey will visit Pediatric Hospital of Dr. Richner and the renovation project of Banteay Srei Temples in Siem Reap, it added.

Source: Xinhua Read more!